January 2, 2009

Why oh why can't we have a better press corpse? Glenn Greenwald:

Indeed. Perish the thought that a reporter should point out when government officials are making "bogus" claims and are lying a country into a war. That is "not their role," says the New Tim Russert (and, unsurprisingly, the Old Tim Russert wholeheartedly agreed). I don't know whether Gregory's public advocacy for a meek and polite press corps that would never be so rude as to point out when government leaders are lying is what sealed the deal for his new promotion to Meet the Press -- a show which centrally depends on having powerful politicians know that they can come on and, as Dick Cheney's top communications aide put it, "control the message." But I'm quite sure that it didn't hurt.

To see what Cheney aide Cathie Martin meant when she explained that Cheney knew he could go on Meet the Press and "control the message" -- and to see in action David Gregory's model of sycophantic, unchallenging "journalism" -- one could do no better than to examine Gregory's embarrassingly deferential "interview" yesterday with Israel's Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni. It's a perfect template for how our American press corps (with some rare exceptions) functions.

Whatever one's views are on Israel's attack on Gaza -- pro, con or otherwise -- there's no denying that it's an extremely controversial matter -- at least it is in the world that exists outside of mainstream American political discourse. Even within Israel, there are scathing criticisms of what the Israeli Government is doing -- on both strategic and moral grounds. Yet none of those objections made their way into David Gregory's interview of Livni. He didn't present her with a single argument against the Israeli attack. He didn't challenge a single word she uttered. He was even more sycophantic with her than the average American journalist is with the average American political leader.

[...] There are good reasons why the media's reverent 2003 treatment of Bush matches its 2008 deference to Israeli claims. In 2003, claims about Iraq from the Bush administration -- just like claims from Israel now -- were not aggressively challenged or disputed in good company; their pronouncements were mandated orthodoxy, pieties of the highest order. And the one thing our media stars are good at doing -- what, above all else, they're programmed to do -- is to amplify and pay homage to prevailing establishment pieties. To do otherwise, as Gregory revealingly explained, "is not their role."

While it's true that blogs are dependent upon the mainstream media to an extent, it's because the media's hackery is so widespread, so consistent that consumers need us to explain exactly why they're so full of crap. (I mean, we do reward people who get it right by regularly linking to them, thus showing blog readers just who gets our respect.)

The members of the press corpse don't seem to realize that no matter who signs their paychecks, they have a moral obligation to serve as a check on government. The last eight years have proven they don't.

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